SERVING UP A FEAST OF IDEAS: CP BUSINESS LEADERS’ ROUNDTABLE


Ben Eason
8 March '24

5 minute read

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We recently held another of our popular roundtable dinners at Hotel du Vin. We brought together an exclusive group of leading FDs, MDs and CFOs from successful mid-market and fast-growing businesses.

Whilst each business is unique it’s true to say that many of the challenges faced are similar. It gave our guests an opportunity to share their insights and solutions with their peers. The conversation was lively and practical ideas were shared. It was an evening well spent in great company over a tasty meal.

The discussion was wide ranging and Chatham House rules were firmly in place. Below we provide a flavour of the insights and reflections shared but strictly on a ‘no names’ basis.

Encompassing everything from staff recruitment and retention at all levels to the challenge of cyber security, the cost of debt and the political environment in a year of elections in both the UK and US. We’re not giving away any solutions – you needed to be in the room to feast on those.

RECIPES FOR RECRUITMENT AND RETENTION

Around the table we had finance leaders from a range of industries. From manufacturing and engineering companies, travel and tour operators to commercial property agents, laboratory experts in genomics and tech companies in the aviation, IT solutions and data management spaces. Whether they are PE backed or privately owned, they are all facing recruitment and retention challenges. Trying to find ways to ensure business continuity and the handing on of knowledge to a new generation. People are at the heart of their business. They’re also one of the biggest challenges to manage.

Being a 150-year-old business in a great location and with well-established credentials in your sector doesn’t make it any easier to attract new people. At the other end of the spectrum the tech-based companies are also struggling to find new talent and retain them in an ultra-competitive environment. Making your business attractive to potential new recruits is tough. It’s now about competing for talent not just within your locality or sector but nationally, given the boom in remote and tech enabled hybrid working.

The reality is for many companies is that it takes at least six months for someone joining to learn the business. A real issue when you consider that this current Gen Z population is likely to have at least 10 jobs in their working life. Not always following a straightforward career path. Many of the jobs today’s teenagers will have in the future haven’t even been conceived of yet.

A SMORGASBORD OF INTER-GENERATIONAL ISSUES

Around the table there was wry acceptance that our ‘middle-aged’ approach to running a business is probably out of kilter with the new generation coming through.

Those thorny issues initially thrown into the spotlight by the pandemic are still with us. Hybrid working can be great for white collar office-based staff but what about those on the shop floor? How’s working from home or introducing the option of a four-day week going to be available to them? How do you avoid a ‘them and us’ scenario? How do you act as a responsible employer? Particularly when mental health issues impact on an employee’s performance?

HARNESSING THE POWER OF AI

The use of tech and AI to support and improve business processes is an accepted fact of life if companies are going to thrive. However, getting the buy-in and contribution of ‘old hands’ from within the business can be a challenge. Understandably many feel threatened by change. Not always seeing the opportunities it also brings.

Cybersecurity and hacking threats are a real issue for the businesses around the table. Particularly for those going through M&A deals or who have overseas based owners.

IT’S THE ECONOMY, STUPID

House building along with manufacturing is felt to be a good barometer for the UK economy. Uncertainty around interest rates, particularly with an election looming, is impacting on clients and, in turn, their business. The cost of debt, loans and mortgages continues to be a concern and is often placed front and centre of decision making.

Supply chain issues haven’t gone away. Whether that’s goods coming into the UK or parts made in this country. The temporary solutions put in place at the time of Brexit are now creaking. Cross border issues around regulations are proving increasingly inadequate for today. The ‘new normal’ isn’t good enough to allow business to thrive.

Unsurprisingly the general feeling was that despite the predicted election this year things won’t change that much due to the fiscal constraints on whichever party is in power. Even if there is a change of government, which is the expected outcome, the same issues will be there. Things won’t be radically different.

WANT TO JOIN THE CONVERSATION?

We’re planning to hold some more exclusive invite-only events. They’ll provide a rare opportunity to informally mingle within your peer group.

If any of the above has sparked some thoughts you’d like to discuss, please do get in touch.